Thursday, November 20, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 12

Cincinnati (+11) at Pittsburgh - This is a no-brainer, right? The Steelers blow out the Bengals? Well, yeah, that's probably what happens. But I don't trust the Bengals to lay down, and I don't trust the Steelers to play smart and disciplined. I can't see Cincinnati going into Pittsburgh and coming out with the win, but it's fairly easy to imagine them keeping it within 10, and that's the way I'm going.

Philadelphia (+1) at Baltimore - The Eagles are not as good as we thought. When they went down to Dallas and lost close, everyone thought that the Cowboys were an uber-team, and that it said great things about Philadelphia. We now know that we had overrated Dallas, and, consequently, there was some overrating of the Eagles as well. Having said that, I should now be picking the Ravens. But I'm not. I know that their record is 6-4, I know that they've outscored their opposition by more than the Eagles have, I know that they're at home - I know all of that. But I still don't buy them as a first-rate team, and, while I've never thought that the Eagles were a great team, I suspect that they're good enough to come out of Baltimore with a win.

Houston at Cleveland (-3) - It's been a frustrating season for each of these teams. The frustration continues on Sunday for the Texans, as the Browns drawn within one game of .500.

San Francisco at Dallas (-10) - It would give me great pleasure to see Mike Singletary, who I admire, pick up his first win as a head coach (well, his first win as a head coach against a real NFL team, not just the Rams) against the Cowboys (who I detest) this weekend. It would also give me great pleasure to win the PowerBall lottery this weekend. The odds, I suspect, are similar.

Tampa Bay at Detroit (+8.5) - The Lions are going to win one this season. It probably won't be Sunday, but if it is, I'll be able to say, "Hey, I called it!"

Minnesota (+2.5) at Jacksonville - The Jaguars looked strong for a half last week, but don't have enough left right now to beat a good team. The question is, of course, are the Vikings a good team? Eeny, meeny, miny, mo... I think I'll pretend it's so.

Buffalo at Kansas City (+3) - On the season as a whole, the Bills have been a better team. But they're on a horrendous skid, having lost four in a row and five of six, and there really isn't anything to point at to suggest that they ought to be a favorite on the road against anyone. I actually think that the Chiefs win this one at home.

New England (+1) at Miami - Two 6-4 teams meet, with the loser not eliminated from division contention, but in really bad shape. If the Patriots lose this, it will be their third loss in the division, and their second loss to the Dolphins, who will be a game ahead of them with the tie-breaker. If they want any realistic chance of continuing their streak of division championships, they need to win this game. Which means that they need to play significantly better defense than they've been playing. I believe that they will, and that they'll win the game.

Chicago (-8.5) at St. Louis - How much respect do I have for the Bears? Very little. It is very telling about the Rams, then, that I'm picking the Bears to cover more than a touchdown against them.

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee (-5) - The Titans will lose before the season ends. It won't be this week. (At least, as a Patriots fan, I hope it won't be this week...)

Oakland (+9.5) at Denver - The Broncos win, but the defense is so porous that they cannot be expected to cover more than a touchdown against anyone. (OK, maybe the Lions or Rams.)

Carolina at Atlanta (-1) - One of the things that happens is that my opinions of some teams crystallize early. Teams in NFC divisions that the Patriots don't see, that aren't the glamour divisions, aren't capable of doing much to change my opinion once the season starts, because I rarely see them. But I've seen enough of the Falcons, and I saw enough of Matt Ryan at BC, to jump on the Atlanta bandwagon.

N.Y. Giants (-3) at Arizona - The Cardinals are going to win the NFC West comfortably. This won't make it any more comfortable, as the Giants should win handily. Frankly, this line looks strange to me, as the idea is to balance the money, and I have to believe that there is a lot more money coming in on the Giants than the Cardinals. In fact, this is such an obvious sucker bet that I'm tempted to take Arizona. In the end, I'll play the conventional wisdom, follow the crowd, be one of the sheeple bet, and take the Giants to cover.

Washington (-3.5) at Seattle - The return of the prodigal, as former Seahawk star Jim Zorn leads his Redskins into Seattle. The Seahawks are, of course, one of the bigger disappointments in the NFL, defending division champions who are currently five games behind. I may have mentioned this before, but starting a season with a lame-duck coach is not a great idea.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at San Diego - One of the big shockers of the 2007 NFL playoffs happened in Indianapolis, when the banged up Chargers went in and beat the Colts. Each of these teams was expected to win its division again this year - the Colts aren't going to, and while the Chargers are better positioned, they're not in first either. And they won't get there this weekend, as the Colts go into San Diego and run their winning streak to four.

Green Bay (+2.5) at New Orleans - The Packers are a first place team, the Saints are a last-place team. Which is a very misleading statement, as each team is 5-5. But the Packers have significantly better point differential (65) than the Saints (17). And I think that difference is real and representative of the gap between the teams. In what should be a close game, the Packers pull it out by a field goal.

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